A fish fillet falls to the floor. A retail worker picks it up and returns it to the counter for sale.
At an outdoor fish market, tuna is left to sit in the sun for hours without refrigeration.
A consumer returns scallops to a seafood department claiming they are not fresh. A worker then takes the scallops and pours them back into the display case.
These are some of the images a national audience of television viewers were expected to have seen last Thursday on a segment on seafood sanitation and handling practices that was prepared by the ABC news magazine "PrimeTime Live." That is the show, of course, that in late 1992 featured a devastating look via hidden camera at poor sanitation practices in the deli and meat departments of Food Lion, Salisbury, N.C.
This issue of SN went to print right before the show aired, so the exact content of the program was not known.
To offer a glimpse at who was contacted by "PrimeTime" and how the segment was expected to be produced, SN had interviewed some of the program's participants prior to Thursday's broadcast. The above seafood scenarios, along with other examples of poor seafood handling, were shown recently to a three-member panel of experts gathered together by "PrimeTime Live" for the program.
"They showed us footage taken with hidden cameras inside a supermarket seafood department," said Ken Panaralla, chief sanitarian for the Chicago Department of Health, who along with the others met with "PrimeTime" staff at a Washington hotel
suite turned into a makeshift studio. The participants were filmed as they watched and reacted to the footage.
Most of the images presented were "not real clean stuff," said Panaralla. The other panelists were a representative of the Voice of the People, a consumer group, and Billy Martin, owner of Martin Seafood Co., Waterloo, Md., a wholesaler.
Executives at Dominick's Finer Foods, Northlake, Ill., were also interviewed for the program. Rich Simpson, spokesman for Dominick's, declined to offer specifics about the meeting with the "PrimeTime" reporters, but said the questioning focused on seafood handling and policies.
He said the chain was told by "PrimeTime" staff that its operations were not to be the focus of the segment.
While the program was not expected to put the glare of the spotlight solely on supermarkets, some stores apparently had been visited by hidden cameras.
The show's producers did not tell the panelists where the supermarket footage had been taken, according to Panaralla, although they said it was not from Dominick's.
The program was expected to include a look at the Fulton Fish Market in New York City and a wholesale operation in Chicago, said the panel members.
Panaralla said that in addition to showing the panel the footage, interviewers from "PrimeTime" asked them general questions about seafood safety and handling.
Karen Brown, vice president of communications for the Food Marketing Institute, Washington, said the trade association had not been contacted by ABC for comment as of the week before the broadcast.